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UK freight trains to be upgraded with delay-busting digital technology

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A major multi-million-pound contract has been agreed which will see freight trains across Britain fitted with digital technology which will enable them to be safer, make better use of the network, and provide greater flexibility in the timetable.

The landmark contract has been awarded to Chippenham-based Siemens Rail Automation by Network Rail to start installing European Train Control System (ETCS) in-cab signalling on Britain’s freight fleet.
More than a million more train services now run every year on the network than just a few years ago.
(Image via Network Rail).

Ultimately, around 750 vehicles are expected to be fitted with the new technology, creating skilled jobs in the UK.

This technology forms part of Britain’s ‘Digital Railway programme’- the industry’s improved plan to tackle the growing demand and strain on the railway network- by accelerating its digital modernisation, and will mean, eventually, freight trains will have improved operational performance on a mixed traffic network. The initial focus will be on the heaviest used types of locomotive and the learning from this first stage will be used to inform the wider potential fleet roll-out from 2022 onwards.

With more than a million more train services running every year on the network than just a few years ago, tackling congestion and crowding on the railways is a daily challenge. The UK railway network carries twice as many passengers as it did just two decades ago and demand is still rising. Upgrading the network’s railway signalling- the equipment used to manage and coordinate train traffic across the country- is the cornerstone of the Digital Railway programme, as switching from lineside signals to on-train will allow more trains to run on existing tracks, reduce crowding, provide better connections, and improve performance and safety for passengers.

The tech: what is the European Train Control System (ETCS)?

ETCS ensures trains always operate within safe limits and speeds, providing safe movement authority directly and continuously to the driver through a driver’s display. The system permits the driver to operate the train, but should the ETCS distance or speed limit be exceeded, or be in danger of being exceeded, then the on-board equipment intervenes to control the train, bringing it to stand if necessary.
The European Train Control System (ETCS) ensures that trains operate with safe distances and speed limits.
(Image via Network Rail).

Siemens Trainguard 200 is a proven, lower power and reliable solution with highly robust fall-back odometry and radar configuration, and features ‘Automatic Warning System’ (AWS) and ‘Train Protection and Warning System’ (TPWS) functionality which is integrated into the ETCS driver display. With a small footprint and flexible hardware configuration, the system is ideally suited for design and installation across multiple freight classes.

A new source of rail engineering jobs

The design, testing and approvals stage for each class of vehicle starts now and work to retrofit the entire freight fleet will begin in 2022- creating new rail engineering job opportunities.

Additionally, around 2400 drivers will require training on how to use the new solution. Siemens and Network Rail will provide support to the Freight Operating Companies during this time, and it’s expected the programme will involve more than 150 skilled engineering jobs in the UK, with the installation teams being based in Holgate and Eastleigh.

To find out how Fircroft’s workforce solutions can reduce costs for your rail business or project, speak to us today.
Tags: Engineering
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UK freight trains to be upgraded with delay-busting digital technology - Time to read 3 min
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